What does it mean for pork to be pasture raised, and why should you care? What difference does it make?
To the pig, it matters a lot. Any pork you buy that doesn't claim to be pasture raised was raised in confinement. That means that the pigs never saw sunlight, never got to snuffle through soil, and never got to eat a green leaf or a bug. They lived and died their short lives in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO, also known as a factory farm) where the space they had to move was measured in square feet. Those animals are bred to grow as quickly as possible on a super high-octane diet. There is no concern for the animal's happiness or how well it could survive in a natural environment. Fast and efficient is the name of that game.
When a pig is raised on pasture, it lives the life a pig loves: out in the grass and forest, wallowing in mud puddles on a warm summer day, rooting through the soil, eating lots of fresh forage in addition to its grain ration. I love to watch my pigs being pigs. There's nothing quite like a happy pig to put a smile on your face!
When pigs live out in the open, they fertilize the soil and make it better. Waste from CAFO pigs is an environmental burden.
Pasture raised pigs make better pork for the consumer. It is rich in nutrients. When a pig takes a normal, natural amount of time to grow (rather than the super sonic growth they push for in CAFO's), their meat is nutrient dense, full of vitamin D from the sunshine, minerals from the dirt and forage they eat, and free from pharmaceutical inputs. The meat is darker and richer tasting. It has "terroir"--the taste of the land where it lived.
That is why one of my customers told me that my pork is the best tasting pork he's ever had, hands down.
Factories are great for producing some of the things we need. Electronics, toys, cookware, cars... I am grateful that we have efficient ways of manufacturing those things to bring the prices down. Life, though, biology, was never meant for a factory. Getting pork for $2/lb isn't as cheap as it seems when you consider the cost to the animal, the environment, and your own health. As a wise person once told me, "you WILL pay for it (cheap food)... eventually." Eating pasture raised pork is an easy way to bring vitality and great flavor into your own diet, and to guarantee welfare for America's food animals.